Performing humanitarian militarism

Public security and the military in Brazil

in Focaal
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This article investigates a case in which the Brazilian military, according to national press, “invaded” and “occupied” a Rio de Janeiro favela neighborhood under the auspices of a public security program. Rio’s “pacification” program aims to replace drug trafficking organizations’ control of favelas with Pacifying Police Units and counts on the occasional participation of the military. Based on research with military personnel and favela residents, I investigate the construction and consequences of the pairing of militarism with humanitarianism. I show how these logics are not opposed, as they might at first sound, but in practice, deeply aligned. Among other reasons, both state force and state caregiving are performances to justify military presence on the streets to audiences in and outside the favela. The visible spectacle of humanitarian militarism effaces abuses and makes light of the everyday fears and insecurities suffered by the urban poor.

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology